Be Whole & Balanced

Words: Dr Rituraj SARMA

Ayurveda addresses our mind, body, and spirit, with a holistic purport. It emphasises eating right to bring oneself into balance, as also exercising, breathing fully, reducing stress, sleeping well, besides using allied, or fundamental, concepts to keeping our body whole, harmonious, balanced, and healthy.

Food is medicine in Ayurveda tenets. Food is indispensable to improve one’s health, to live longer, and protect oneself from disease. A strong mind-body constitution is just as sine qua non.

Knowledge of Ayurveda comes from the Vedas. Ayurveda is appropriately called the science of life…

Our body, thanks to our frenzied lifestyle, is constantly being worn out and liable to be thrown out of balance. It must, therefore, be nourished and maintained with the right foods, also truthful conduct, and practice of hygiene that are conducive to health and longevity.

In all of creation, there are no better and more powerful medicines, tools, or techniques, than to tune into the rhythms and laws of Divine and Almighty Nature. 

Ayurveda emphasises the importance to maintaining health in the healthy and treating disease in individuals who are ill. To maintain health, certain activities are prescribed in Ayurveda, under the term, dinacharya [daily routine]. Ayurveda recommends that, in order to be optimally healthy, we should tune our bodies to sync well with nature’s master cycle which, in turn, regulates several other rhythms.

Aachar se aayu praapt hoti hai. The term, aachar, doesn’t directly refer to the behaviour of person, but it is to be interpreted in a wide-ranging sense — the lifestyle you lead and the daily routine you follow.

Aachar = Aahar + Vihar. Under aahar we learn about the regulated intake of food substances according to their suitability with respect to their potency [veerya], active principle [rasa], constituent elements and the season. Vihar teaches us everything related to the daily regime should be followed, including certain do’s and don’ts.

Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. 

Time Holds The Key

You should wake up in the Brahmamuhurta to live long. Brahmamuhurta, or amritvela, refers to the ambrosial hour — an hour-and-a-half before sunrise. It connects to the five principal elements of nature — pure air,  water, the essential earth, abundant sunlight and space, which are best available in their non-polluted forms at this time of the day. This is also the time when there is a preponderance of sattva in the air. During the time, the vata element is dominant. When you wake up two hours before dawn you utilise the vata qualities in nature. Vata is light, subtle, and clear; it helps in fine-tuning the body and to receiving the delicate, subtle messages that nature transmits.

Apart from the physical benefits derived from being awake in this time period, it also opens the door to one’s self via spiritual realisation through meditation — which is best expressed during this time slot. On the contrary, people not having this habit are likely to suffer from halitosis [bad breath], constipation, indigestion, fatigue, and indolence.

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease. 

As soon as possible empty your colon and bladder. This is a time when one shouldn’t be in a rush, while allowing the rhythms of one’s body to carrying out the natural functions. If you wait until later in the morning, or during the day, you’re slowly poisoning yourself and creating the opportunity for chronic conditions to arise. Regular cleansing of mouth should be done with tender twigs of babool, Indian barbeech, cutch tree and neem, as they contain alkaline materials and oils that strengthen teeth, eradicate oral diseases in their quiescent stage, kill germs and worms, and also prevent bleeding of gums.

An element named margocin with its bitter taste is present in neem, which along with sulphur found in the oil content of neem, acts as a germicide. Babool is a source of tannin, Arabic acid, calcium and magnesium. Indian beech, also known as karinj, contains an active element, karinjan, which kills worms.

Once this is done, we’re supposed to scrape off the tongue clean as Ayurveda considers the coating of tongue as a sign of toxins in the colon. This step is significant in removing that eerie feeling of tastelessness too. Like any other instruction, we’ve got our do’s and don’ts here too. People who fall in the ‘don’ts’ category for brushing of teeth are the ones suffering from indigestion, vomiting, dyspnoea [difficulty in breathing], cough, fever, facial paralysis, excessive thirst, ulceration of mouth, cardiac [heart] disorders, ophthalmological [eye] disease, and disease of head and ears.

Cleaning your eyes which actually plays a role as vital as perception of your surroundings throughout the day is the motive for the next step — this is collyrium application. You’d preferably use rose water, or water containing some amount of antimony oxide in it, to improve vision. You should wash our eyes, once a week, with water containing extracts of the Indian barberry too — this eliminates the impure/polluted lachrymal secretions still leftover inside. This is to be followed by nasal instillation of drops. For this purpose, milk, herbal decoctions, herbal oils are generally used. It purifies the sinuses. This is also a caretaking step for the neck and pectoral region. Also, gargling with warm water, or herbal decoctions, may be done to improve your voice.

Dinacharya 

Dinacharya recommends that you inhale the smoke of medicinal herbs to purify, or detox, the mind, head, face, neck and lungs. It is advised that one should also massage with warm sesame oil. The massage need not be long and cumbersome — you should gently massage the scalp, forehead, temples, hand and feet. This has multiple benefits —

  • Wards off aging
  • Relieves tiredness
  • Helps heal injuries, if any
  • Bequeaths good vision
  • Nourishes tissues
  • Increases tactile sensitivity
  • Induces good sleep
  • Improves skin tone and complexion.

A few drops of oil instilled in the ear helps to treat lock jaw, torticollis [wryneck], and headache. Avoid massage in case you’ve recently undergone a panchkarma procedure, or are currently facing indigestion problems.

Exercise

Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness. 

Exercise brings about lightness, it improves work capacity, strengthens digestive fire and physical fitness. It removes stagnation in the body and mind; it reduces fat. Although people taking oily foods shouldn’t fail to exercise during December to May, a point to be noted here is not to make the exercise strenuous. In fact, exercising up to one-half of your capacity is recommended, failing which one may experience emaciation, severe dyspnoea, bleeding disorders, exhaustion, feeling of debility, cough, and nausea. This also applies to long walks, extended nights, and other strenuous activities.

In every aspect of life, purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement, exalt the human condition… Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will contribute to spirituality. 

  • Bathing is purifying; it also has aphrodisiac-like effects
  • Improves digestion
  • Prolongs life
  • Increases enthusiasm and strength
  • Helps get rid of dermal waste products, fatigue, excessive thirst, burning sensation and microbes
  • It also brings positive energy to the body, clarity to the mind, and sacredness to your life.

One should keep the feet and orifices [ears, nose, eyes, urethra and anus] clean of waste to promote intelligence, purity and longevity. Pouring warm water over the torso bestows strength, but the same over the head, makes for loss of strength of the hair and eyes. Bath is contraindicated in individuals suffering from facial paralysis, diseases of the eyes, mouth and ears, diarrhoea, flatulence, rhinitis [common cold; nasal allergy], indigestion and/or when you’ve just had your meal/food.

One who takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skill of their doctors. 

After bathing, with the stomach empty of leftover, or previously ingested food, one should take a nourishing, wholesome breakfast, following which you can get into whatever chores you may have to do until noon.

Lunch should be taken early between 12:00pm and 1:00pm as this coincides with the peak pitta period; pitta is responsible for digestion. Although one should stop activities of the body, speech and mind before getting exhausted, the sense organs should neither be strained nor fondled too much.

What about a siesta, not fiesta? Anything more than a short nap should be avoided during this time, because sleeping in the day is prohibited in Ayurveda. One should also keep in mind not to visit holy places of worship, crossroads, abattoirs, burial grounds etc., at noon.

Other Basic Guidelines  

Be self-aware of your surroundings and adopt the required safety measures to protect your body from rain, fire, whirlwind, wild animals [carry a baton, if needed], and scorching heat. Inculcate in yourself good hygienic habits, such as hand washing, covering your mouth when sneezing/coughing, trimming your hair and nails regularly, and not unnecessarily blowing your nose/belching; you should also avoid the smoke emanating from the cadaver after cremation. Take care of your body posture whether you’re sleeping, sitting, or walking, i.e., you should not bend your knees for too long. Refrain from taking food from foes/sacrificial ceremonies, or having food at dawn, or dusk; also, avoid wine/brewing/drinking.

Significance 

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear — Buddha 

For an intelligent person the world is a teacher; hence, one should be receptive to the world after considering the meaning and effect of such actions.

Things To Avoid 

Of body. Causing injury/torture, stealing, physical abuse.

Of speech. Abusive/harsh speech, speaking untruth, antagonising speech, disrespectful speech.

Of mind. Cruelty, envy, jealousy, criticism, suspiciousness. All creatures pine for happiness. There’s no happiness without righteousness. We only ought to indulge in three pursuits. Dharma [righteousness], artha [wealth], karma [duty for pleasure]. These are the true words of wisdom, better explained by this hidden message:

Healthy self = Heal thyself. 

The ‘self’ refers to your soul, your character.

You should also respect all animals in the same manner as any other human being. Be humble, compassionate, helpful and of good conduct in your own regard. At the same time, be alert and sensible with respect to people and the surroundings around you. Keeping in mind the nature of the people, it’s best that you deal with them in such a manner as being pleasant. Avoid speaking of insults/disaffection.

Kaé brüyat: speak on right occasion. Hitaḿ brüyat: speak courteously. Mitaḿ brüyat: speak little in keeping with the necessity.

One who unfailingly observes such gradual developmental changes in oneself can transform their life into one devoid of sorrow. Thus was enumerated, in brief, the rules of good conduct. One who religiously follows it shall attain a healthy, wealthy, long life.

Time-Centric Activity

6:00am 

  • Wake-up
  • Scrape the tongue
  • Brush the teeth
  • Splash water on the face
  • Gargle with sesame oil for five minutes; massage the gums after spitting out the oil.

6:20am 

  • Drink 8-16 ounces of warm water [add lemon, if desired]
  • Have a bowel movement.

6:30am

  • Yoga, meditation and/or pranayama.

7:15am

  • Take a warm shower.

7:45am

  • Chew a spoonful of sesame seeds to stimulate the liver and digestion while taking in essential iron, zinc and calcium
  • Eat breakfast; make sure to eat sitting down, slowly, and with attention.

8:30am

  • Take a 10-15-minute walk outside.

12:00pm-1:00pm

  • Eat lunch; this should be the largest meal of the day
  • Do not eat while working, in a meeting, on the computer, or  the phone.

1:00pm

  • Go for a 15-20-minute walk outside.

5:00pm-6:00pm

  • Eat a light, simple, easy-to-digest dinner.

6:30pm

  • Take a 10-15-minute walk outside.

8:00pm

  • Begin your night-time routine; avoid all electronic gadgets, including phone calls, computers/e-mails and television
  • Prepare a hot cup of ‘sleep-inducing’ chamomile tea
  • Take a warm bath with calming essential oils [lavender, tulsi, chamomile].

8:30pm

  • Perform a self-oil massage [abhyanga] with sesame oil in winter; coconut oil in summer.

9:00pm

  • Perform a gentle, restorative yoga routine [15 minutes] ending with a 5-minute ‘legs up the wall’ or 10-minute meditation.

9:30pm 

  • Get into bed; opt for a light reading fare, if you so desire.

10:00pm

  • Bedtime; lights out.
Dr RITURAJ SARMA, BAMS, MD [Ayurveda], is Principal/Medical Superintendent, Shekhawati Ayurvedic Medical College & Hospital, Pilani, Rajasthan. This article was first published [Ayurveda: The Healthy Way of Living], in International Journal of Development Research, 7 [09], 14897-14899, 2017, under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Dr Sarma lives in Pilani, India.

1 thoughts on “Be Whole & Balanced

  1. Rupesh says:

    Dr Rituraj Sharma did a great job with my first-ever health exam. She explained everything to me in a clear, practical manner. She was also kind and friendly. The staff was just great too — they were helpful, also patient-friendly.

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